When Wole Soyinka last published a novel, the Nigerian Civil War was barely over and he had not long been a free man, having spent two years in solitary confinement at the pleasure of the federal government, writing on scraps of toilet paper. In the intervening half-century, many military dictators have come and gone, but Soyinka has remained an outspoken critic of Nigeria’s corrupt elites, who replaced colonial rule with home-made tyranny. For his troubles, Soyinka has spent periods in exile and, in 1997, had a death sentence imposed upon him in absentia. By then he was already Africa’s first Nobel Laureate in Literature and one of the world’s foremost playwrights.
Now eighty-seven, have the passing years and the return of civilian rule made Soyinka more optimistic about Nigeria’s present and its future? On the evidence of Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth, the answer is no. If anything, the critique that first took shape